If a summer devoid of any decent family-friendly feature films has not already left you feeling blue, “The Smurfs” will certainly hammer the final nail in that coffin.
Manifesting none of the charm of other recent CGI/live-action movies-based-on-old-cartooons like “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “Yogi Bear,” “The Smurfs” is about as noisy and annoying as the song for which the little, blue creatures are known. Among other problems, the flick boasts too many pop-culture references, has too much product placement and is too doused in roll-your-eyes humor.
Based on the classic cartoon of the same title, “The Smurfs” stars Hank Azaria as the evil wizard Gargamel who, along with his cat Azreal, is determined to capture a group of small, blue creatures in order to harness their magical powers for himself. However, in the process, he chases them right out of their village and into New York City.
That is where the Smurfs meet Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris), an advertising executive who is already having trouble juggling his job and his pregnant wife (Jayma Mays). Therefore, when the small, blue creatures ask him to help them get back to their village, Patrick is a bit overwhelmed – and that is after he gets over the shock.
Meanwhile, having followed the Smurfs into New York City, Gargamel is hot on their trail, raising havoc everywhere he goes. It is a race against time for Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters), Smurfette (Katy Perry), Grouchy Smurf (George Lopez), Gutsy Smurf (Alan Cumming), Brainy Smurf (Fred Armisen) and Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin) as they try to elude evil.
A quick glance at some of the other celebrities who voice Smurfs – Paul Reubens as Jokey Smurf, Wolfgang Puck as Chef Smurf and Jeff Foxworthy as Handy Smurf – suggests that “The Smurfs” is sure to entertain regardless of one’s age or familiarity with the small, blue creatures. However, as it turns out, most of the novelty voices have been reduced to one line a piece,
Needless to say, the other voice talent is dull by comparison. Granted, Winters does a decent job and sounds like he was born to play the part (he voiced Grandpa Smurf in 1981), but his intonation tends to grow a big old. Then again, this is hardly “The Smurfs’s” biggest problem as the entire screenplay is drained of any charm whatsoever.
For starters, “The Smurfs” would have been a much better film had it been entirely set in the creatures’ own fictional universe. After all, Azaria’s inspired portrayal of Gargamel is the only highlight here and the screenwriters fail to take full advantage of placing the character in the real world. The rest of the flick is just one big smurfing mess.
“The Smurfs” (PG – 86 minutes) is now playing at movie theaters throughout the Valley. Visit FirstLook.com for specific showtimes.
Listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s “Movie Maverick” radio segment, every Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. during “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on KBSZ – NBC 1260 AM and 96.1 FM.